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No fewer than 20 villagers at Umuokpu Abajah community in Nwangele local government area of Imo State narrowly escaped death on Tuesday morning when a vehicle loaded with petroleum products went up in flames.
The Eastern Updates gathered that the incident happened at about 2 am when the vehicle conveying suspected illegal fuel caught fire.
Villagers were wailing and weeping as they watched their buildings, shops, and merchandise worth N50 million burnt in the inferno, but no life was lost.
A witness said: ‘The incident happened on Sunday at about 2 am at Umuokpu Abajah in Nwangele LGA of Imo State when yet-to-be-identified owners of a Toyota Hiace went up in flames.’
A security man on duty at the Community Primary School, Umuokpu, who did not want his name mentioned, said: ‘I heard a big bang shortly after a Toyota Hiace suddenly came to a stop due to a noise from the silencer and I quickly went to the scene but unfortunately, the vehicle ignited and the operators ran away before I could reach the location.’
The security man said the vehicle was loaded with fuel and that there was a loud bang that indicated that the silencer caught fire, adding that he was able to alert the occupants of the affected buildings and helped them to escape the fire. But all the buildings on the road were burnt including stores.
He added: ‘We tried to put the fire off but we could not as it raged uncontrollably. It destroyed all their houses. We saw a Hiace Toyota burnt beyond recognition at the scene of the incident. Stores were also destroyed.’
‘An indigene of the village, Clifford Ojiakor, said that the incident happened close to his father’s house. My father’s building is just close to the scene of the incident.’
The police spokesman in the state, Henry Okoye, has yet to react to the incident as at the time of filing the report.